Aurora commission OKs plan for East Bank apartments at contentious hearing

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AURORA | Site plans for a controversial apartment complex in southwest Aurora earned the unanimous approval of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday, in a virtual hearing punctuated by outbursts from some of the project’s opponents.

The 311-unit apartment building would replace a section of a partially-vacant commercial center in the East Bank Shopping Center, northeast of Parker Road and Quincy Avenue.

Project sponsors sold the redevelopment as a second wind for the struggling retail spot, which once housed a 24 Hour Fitness, Colorado Fabrics and other stores that have since closed.

“The only way to support the existing retail here is to bring in more residential,” argued Marcus Pachner of the Pachner Company, who presented alongside project sponsors on Wednesday. “This is a residential anchor that will support it.”

Evergreen Development Company is leading the redevelopment alongside property owner Kimco Realty

Opponents of the project were allowed by the commission to make their own 10-minute presentation. Neighbor Bill VanSickle detailed numerous objections to the development, including its potential impact on traffic; the 610-foot length of the proposed building, which he called “monolithic” and which required a variance from code of about 410 feet; and the displacement of existing business, in particular Pet Palace.

VanSickle said the pet store had been a staple in the shopping center for more than 28 years. It was not clear Wednesday what plans the store has for relocating. While he said neighbors agreed the commercial center needed to be redeveloped, VanSickle said the proposed apartments were not a good fit.

“We agree that Kimco and Evergreen have the right to develop this property,” he said. “We don’t take issue with that. However, we feel it’s not the right way to develop East Bank.”

Pachner insisted the impact on traffic would be manageable, with trips generated by the apartment complex making up only 0.93% of the traffic on Parker and 0.57% of trips on Quincy by full buildout in 2024, according to a traffic study.

He also said an early version of the plan that would have closed the northeast access to South Atchison Way without indicating any replacement access was abandoned in favor of a plan that includes an improved access along the east side of the property, just south of East Oxford Place on the maps presented.

Diana Rael of planning firm Norris Design said Kimco “has committed to continuing to work with retailers to relocate them within the project and to generate viable solutions to allow them to continue to serve in the adjacent, surrounding local community.”

Another presenter on behalf of the project, Carolynne White, said the 610-foot-long proposed apartment building is actually shorter than the 950-foot-long commercial building that partially overlaps its current footprint.

Wednesday’s public hearing on the project followed several meetings with neighbors and businesses, as well as the submission of more than 300 written comments to the city along with a petition against the project that collected around 539 signatures, city planner Ariana Muca said.

A mixture of opponents and supporters among the public spoke for more than an hour and a half on Wednesday. Many, like Geri Santos-Rach, said they lived near the shopping center and were personally invested in what happened with the property.

“One of the things that I want people to understand is that Kimco’s proposal hasn’t balanced the needs of the new community with the old community,” she said, mentioning increased vehicle and foot traffic around the property and heavier use of surrounding parks as particular concerns.

Another neighbor, Daniel Smafield, spoke up in favor of the apartments, saying he wanted to see more affordable rentals in the area.

“I want future residents of Aurora like myself to also be able to afford to live in this neighborhood and not be priced out,” he said. “I do think that there are more important things in our community than my view or my property value. I believe all of us here in Aurora have a moral obligation in every neighborhood to do what we can to increase housing supply.”

After the comments, the commission discussed the public’s concerns with the applicant. They were periodically interrupted by meeting attendees who unmuted themselves to criticize both groups, prompting commissioner Bob Gaiser to say the commenters were “not helping your case by blasting out like that.”

Vice-chair Melvin Bush noted after the commission’s unanimous vote to approve the plan that opponents still have the opportunity to appeal the decision to the Aurora City Council.

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cammy1938
4 months ago

the city doesnt seem to care what residents have to say. all they want is the revenue they will get from the development. aurora just doesnt have enough apartments to house all the people that seem to want to move here. there are plenty of apartments/homes along Quincy.

Good Citizen
Good Citizen
4 months ago
Reply to  cammy1938

I am always amazed that those that don’t own a property think that they have some input into what an owner does with it. ” All they want is the revenue they will get from the development” Well, duh….

Dean
4 months ago
Reply to  cammy1938

The city when its all said and done does not make revenue on development. The developers are who makes money, that’s why they do it. Well intentioned Social concern- that doubtful? Now what’s more important is who are these apartments designed for? Some developers specialize and target low-income Gov. subsidized projects. You want to see the Gov. creation component that regrettably repeats itself watch how these subsidized projects affect the area. Subsequently the city and Gov. in general then wonders why this decision leads to standards that start its slide. The question that needs asked – is the intention to build a Gov. subsidized housing project?

EJ04
EJ04
4 months ago

There is opposition to every development. this entire metro area is in need of dense housing but nobody wants it near them. I am glad this is approved so far. If they denied every application that had opposition nothing would get built. Build it.

BILL VANSICKLE
BILL VANSICKLE
3 months ago
Reply to  EJ04

You are correct there is a need for dense housing. And we feel East Bank needs to be redeveloped. However, this apartment complex is not the right way to redevelop East Bank. It does nothing with the existing retail to the north and the south. It does not provide a good easement from Atchison Way into the shopping center. We are in favor of a redevelopment of East Bank that include apartments. Also keep in mind, a significant number of apartments, including low-income housing is currently being built in the Point a Nine Mile Station, formerly Regatta Plaza. A pedestrian over pass will be built so tenants don’t have to cross Parker Road to get to the light rail station. The redevelopment of Regatta Plaza is something the city can be proud of. This proposed apartment complex isn’t.
If you feel strongly about adding housing in Aurora join us when the project comes before City Council. Voice your opinion for dense housing as part of the redevelopment of all of East Bank, not just the portion in Kimco’s proposed apartment complex.

samantha
samantha
4 months ago

this is so beyond trash. it was more than clear in the HOA meeting that the majority of current residents DO NOT AGREE with this plan. Aurora- Listen to YOUR EFFING CURRENT RESIDENTS FOR ONCE.

Please email me so i can make my complaint 100 times more clear to whoever is in charge of this POS project, would LOVE to voice my concerns if y’all will actually listen. fucking hell man, pls expect extreme backlash from this community regarding this. 🖕🏼🖕🏼🖖🏼🖖🏼

BILL VANSICKLE
BILL VANSICKLE
3 months ago
Reply to  samantha

Samantha, if you are not on my mailing list, please send your email address. I’ll be more than happy to get you to the people that need to hear your complaints.

swo
swo
4 months ago

this is so beyond trash. it was more than clear in the HOA meeting that the majority of current residents DO NOT AGREE with this plan. the commission “listened to the publics concerns” yet, the entire petition from the actual community of pier pint seems to have been fully ignored.
Aurora-
Listen to YOUR CURRENT RESIDENTS FOR
ONCE.
good lord man, who cares about affordable rent in this area when the traffic jams etc that go along with this project will cause so many of our residents to move out forcing a large chunk of OWNED/ FINANCED (NOT RENTALS) units to become empty. this commission literally “considered” nothing.
Please email me so i can make my complaint 100 times more clear to whoever is in charge of this POS project as well as the HOA board. would LOVE to voice my concerns if y’all will actually listen.
expect extreme backlash from this community regarding this.

Good Citizen
Good Citizen
4 months ago
Reply to  swo

Buy the property from the current owner and do with it what you will. Beyond that, your opinion does not count.

swo
swo
4 months ago
Reply to  Good Citizen

i already own my property. your opinion also does not count. ✌🏼

Good Citizen
Good Citizen
4 months ago
Reply to  swo

You are correct, what you do with your property is absolutely none of my business. Try to give the same respect to those that own Eastbank. (It’s a simple concept, even you could understand it)

BILL VANSICKLE
BILL VANSICKLE
3 months ago
Reply to  swo

swo, please send me your email address. I am one of the point persons fighting this project. I’ll be happy to give you individuals in the city who need to hear your complaints.

BILL VANSICKLE
BILL VANSICKLE
3 months ago

I commend you. The article is accurate and not slanted toward the developer or the community. I’m Bill VanSickle one of the point persons fighting this project. We have filed an appeal and the project will go to City Council. As a resident of Pier Point, which boarder the project on the north and east, we want to see East Bank redevelopment. However, this project does not include the entire portion of East Bank that Kimco owns. We support redevelopment of East Bank and would like to work with Kimco/Evergreen. We want to see a project that is economically feasible for them but is not piecemeal and that offers housing as well as benefits to the surrounding communities.